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quotations about the ocean

The solemn, wonderful, majestic ocean! It exalts, but only to crush me under a sense of its grandeur--boundless, everlasting, pitiless of my insignificance. Wherein does it differ from me? In immensity of breadth and depth. What does it give me? A sense of infinity, and of the abyss which divides me from it.

MADAME SWETCHINE, "Thoughts," The Writings of Madame Swetchine

Coastal people never really know what the ocean symbolizes to landlocked inland people--what a great distant dream it is, present but unseen in the deepest level of subconsciousness, and when they arrive at the ocean and the conscious images are compared with the subconscious dream there is a sense of defeat at having come so far to be stopped by a mystery that can never be fathomed. The source of it all.

ROBERT M. PIRSIG, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Never trust the calm sea when she shows her false alluring smile.

LUCRETIUS, De Rerum Natura

The ocean, whose tides respond like women's menses, to the pull of the moon, the ocean which corresponds to the amniotic fluid in which human life begins, the ocean on whose surface vessels (personified as female) can ride but in whose depth sailors meet their death and monsters conceal themselves ... it is unstable and threatening as the earth is not; it spawns new life daily, yet swallows up lives; it is changeable like the moon, unregulated, yet indestructible and eternal.


My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.


More wonderful than the lore of old men and the lore of books is the secret lore of the ocean. Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent. All my days I have watched it and listened to it, and I know it well. At first it told to me only the plain little tales of calm beaches and near ports, but with the years it grew more friendly and spoke of other things; of things more strange and more distant in space and time.

H. P. LOVECRAFT, "The White Ship"

Crime and the sea have always mixed, pirates ever since there have been ships, law ends with the land, man is nothing out there, a few bubbles as he goes down under the mindless waves.

JOHN UPDIKE, Rabbit at Rest

But to the lover of nature--and who has the courage to avow himself aught else?--the sea-shore can never be monotonous. The swirl and sweep of ever-shifting waters, the flying mist of foam breaking away into a gray and ghostly distance down the beach, the eternal drone of ocean, mingling itself with one's talk by day and with the light dance-music in the parlors by night--all these are active sources of a passive pleasure. And to lie at length upon the tawny sand, watching, through half-closed eyes, the heaving waves, that mount against a dark blue sky wherein great silvery masses of cloud float idly on, whiter than the sunlit sails that fade and grow and fade along the horizon, while some fair damsel sits close by, reading ancient ballads of a simple metre, or older legends of love and romance--tell me, my eater of the fashionable lotus, is not this a diversion well worth your having?

GEORGE ARNOLD, "Why Thomas Was Discharged", Stories by American Authors


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